Getting ready for the new trains - Next phase of Merseyrail network upgrade works announced

Publish date

Monday, August 5, 2019

The latest phase of upgrade works to get the Merseyrail network ready for new, state-of-the-art trains have been announced today, with a small number of Merseyrail’s Northern and Wirral line stations to be affected by a series of short-term closures in September and October.

Stations affected include Rice Lane, West Kirby, Green Lane, Hamilton Square and Chester, with disruption to services lasting between one day and 13 days depending on the works to be undertaken.

Where possible these works have been programmed to minimise disruption to passengers and lineside neighbours. This means works will take place at night or on individual platforms whilst stations remain open. Where stations are fully closed, works will be undertaken day and night and high-quality rail replacement bus services will be available to get customers where they need to go.

The upgrades are part of a rolling programme of planned works which will prepare the Northern and Wirral lines for the arrival of new state-of-the-art trains in 2020.

This element of the work involves altering the height of station platforms and realigning track to ensure the new train’s sliding step can meet the platform edge. This will provide unassisted access for all passengers including wheelchair users, passengers with mobility difficulties and those with bikes, luggage or pushchairs.

The upgrades started in October last year, with eleven phases planned in total. Each phase was delivered in quick succession to complete as much work as possible in a short period. At some stations, more work was needed than the initial surveys and design had foreseen.

The decision was made to return to these stations later this year so that other phases of work weren’t delayed, which could have caused confusion for passengers.

To date, Network Rail have completed:

  • 91 platforms at 50 stations
  • 10,000m platform tiles (copers) remodelled
  • 170,000 hours worked
  • 10,500m track realigned.

Further planned works will also be taking place from later this year and into 2020 to ensure that all stations, and associated signalling infrastructure, are geared up to accommodate the new longer trains. There will also be work to install equipment to provide a pioneering connectivity system which will include high quality on-board WiFi. More details on this will be released

The timings of this next phase of works are outlined below:

  • Rice Lane to Kirkby: line closed, 7-15 September
  • Green Lane: Chester and Ellesmere Port services will not call, 8 September – 20 October
  • Hamilton Square to Hooton : line closed until 14:00, 8 September
  • Aintree to Walton: line closed until 13:00, 15 September
  • West Kirby: platform 1 closed with all trains to operate from platform 2, 16-20 September
  • New Brighton/West Kirby to Hamilton Square: lines closed, 21-22 September
  • West Kirby to Hoylake: closed, 23-29 September
  • Southport to Formby: line closed until 13:00, 29 September
  • Birkenhead Central to Chester / Ellesmere Port: line closed, 13 & 20 October
  • Bache to Chester: line closed, 14-19 October

Passengers will find timetable information and travel advice to plan their journeys at from Monday 5 August.

While lines are closed, Network Rail will also be undertaking upgrades to the power supply which will help to drive the powerful state-of-the-art trains thereby enabling journey time reductions of over 10% across the network.  

Key advice:

  • Check before you travel
  • Plan ahead – use online journey planners at and
  • Leave plenty of time for your journey
  • Consider avoiding travelling at peak times where possible
  • Consider other travel options – including commercial buses


“This next phase of planned works will be vital in welcoming our new, state-of-the-art trains to the Liverpool City Region in 2020. I want to thank passengers not only for their continued patience and cooperation but for following the advice given which is designed to help keep them on the move.”

“We, and our partners at Merseyrail and Network Rail have worked together on this project and significant planning has taken place, to minimise disruption for passengers and people living near to stations wherever possible by having the works take place at night when the stations and wider network is not in use.

“Of course, while these works continue, high-quality rail replacement buses will be available to get people where they need to go. We also encourage customers to consider other travel options, including commercial bus services. Please check your tickets and passes before you travel.”

Wayne Menzies

Head of Rail for Merseytravel

“This work is essential to prepare the network for the new state-of-the-art trains that will arrive next year, with sliding step technology that will allow unassisted access for all of our passengers.

“Plans are in place to minimise disruption as much as possible, with both high quality rail replacement buses and our staff helping passengers to complete their journey during these short phases of work."

Andy Heath

Managing Director for Merseyrail

“We’ve completed around 85% of our upgrades on the Merseyrail network to prepare platforms for the arrival of new trains and their innovative sliding step technology.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to complete all upgrade work at Rice Lane, Green Lane, West Kirby, Birkenhead North and Chester as the changes needed were more complex than we originally thought.

“We didn’t want to impact further phases in the programme and made the decision to delay this work until later in the year. We’re sorry to Merseyrail passengers for the further disruption to their journeys and would like to thank them for bearing with us.”

Lucy Middleton

Scheme Project Manager at Network Rail